Balmoral Show made a welcome return to its usual slot in the farming calendar this year and it was great to see it back in full force with everyone enjoying the opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues and patrons.  As usual, organisers did a superb job of creating a celebratory showcase of the best that Northern Ireland agri-food has to offer. 

The hot topic of conversation was undoubtedly the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine and the resulting impact on input costs locally.  Discussed informally and formally at various events held throughout the course of the Show, the importance of the agri-industry and government working together to address the mounting pressures was emphasised.  NIGTA have been regularly and actively participating in the DAERA Ukraine Contingency Agri-Food Stakeholder Forum and CAFRE Industry Taskforce on Rising Input Costs.  

The mental health impact arising from increasing financial stress was in sharp focus with charitable organisation Rural Support leading the discussion on how to provide practical support to the local farming community.  This year marks Rural Support’s 20th anniversary since its inception.  During this time, it has grown from strength to strength, offering a diverse array of valued programs designed to support farming families with matters relating to financial management and health and wellbeing, all of which are very relevant right now.

Results from an online survey conducted across 800 farms by AgriSearch and the Ulster Farmers’ Union were also presented at the Show.  The survey taken at the end of April examined farmer decision making in response to rising costs.  Indications from this snapshot in time were that some farmers intended to cut back on feed and/or fertiliser without tackling stocking rates.  The dangers of this approach are clear and without some form of action could lead to a winter fodder shortage.

Despite a kind spring, weather conditions have been challenging for harvesting first cut silage and whilst yields are reported to be relatively good, quality has suffered.  A limited window now exists for decision-making around nutrient management, to maximise grass yields for the remainder of the growing season and to ensure there are sufficient fodder stocks for the winter.

CAFRE are hosting another series of farm walks focused on managing rising input costs which are due to take place this week and again the following week, details of which can be found on the CAFRE website. 

In these challenging times it is important to remember that support is available from various organisations.  In addition to those mentioned above, NIGTA members have a wide array of expertise available with feed advisers, agronomists and fertiliser reps ready and willing to help deal with current challenges and forward planning for the months ahead.